The following press release was sent to the media today.
President, United Academics
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 1, 2017
CONTACT: Tom Streeter – (802) 598-9348
UVM faculty rally in support of a better contract, as health care premiums cut into salaries
Rally at noon, Thursday, Nov. 2 at Bailey Howe Library on UVM campus
BURLINGTON, VT – As contract negotiations between faculty and the administration enter mediation at Vermont’s largest university, faculty wearing academic regalia will rally on the steps of UVM’s library at noon on Nov. 2nd, to support a contract that keeps wages competitive and UVM’s budget focused on teaching and research. Faculty will be marching from Bailey Howe through the Davis student center to the Jeffords building, where the mediation session is being held.
“Only one out of every three dollars of UVM’s budget for compensation goes to funding faculty engaged in teaching and research,” says union president Tom Streeter. "Only a slight adjustment of the university’s priorities away from amenities and highly paid administrators toward the things that really matter — the classroom and the research lab — would allow UVM to pay competitive salaries and keep student tuition from rising. Between 2003 and 2016, spending on faculty salaries has increased more slowly than tuition, whereas administrative salary increases have grown faster than tuition.”
United Academics, the faculty union at the University of Vermont (UVM), says that the increase in health care premiums is emerging as a key variable. The university’s recent announcement that health care premiums would climb 5.8% next year means the University’s proposed 2% raise would actually keep salary growth for some faculty below the rate of inflation.
“A 5.8% hike in premiums means that, for a faculty member on the family plan with a median salary, about 20% of the proposed 2% raise will go to cover health care increases, leaving net raises under cost of living increases,” says Streeter.
Streeter, a professor of Sociology, was hired in 1989 and recalls a period where the University was spiraling into decline. He worries the same thing could happen again. “The effect in the 1990s on campus was enervating,” said Streeter. “Young faculty often left, and those who stayed behind felt little motivation to throw themselves into their jobs. It wasn’t just that there was no financial incentive; it was that the administration’s attitude told us that nobody cared about our work.”
Streeter worries a sub-inflation raise will hurt UVMs competitiveness and national ranking. “Union members are fighting to keep the University’s reputation intact and are prepared to “speak up and bargain resolutely,” says Streeter.
Streeter and his colleagues say UVM could pay for reasonable faculty salaries without raising tuition by bringing non-instructional spending into line with its peer universities. “UVM has money,” he continued. “In 2016 and 2017 it ran multimillion dollar surpluses. It just needs to stop shortchanging academics.”